JIM CROW AND THE RHYTHM DARLINGS by Vynnie Meli. World Premiere. Directed by Betty Hart
Featuring: Rachel Bodenstein, Enisha Brewster, Daniel Burnley, DeAndrea Crawford, Nadir Mateen, Delesa Sims
It’s World War Two, and with so many men going off to serve, the previously all-male world of jazz is opening up to women for the first time. The International Rhythm Darlings are an all-female African-American band touring the Deep South, which would be a tough situation in the best of times … but now they’ve got a last-minute replacement in the group, a white Jewish woman, and integrated bands aren’t allowed to play together on stage. Not in the South, not anywhere. Inspired by the real-life experiences of musicians from that era, Vynnie Meli’s play takes a fascinating look at some extraordinary women who make their way past fear and hatred to find the common threads that bind them together. Winner of the 2009 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award competition.
One of the most enjoyable, thought provoking plays I’ve seen in a long time. Times past and present merge so artfully that every time I thought I knew where this play was going it moved in an unexpected direction, as life, past and present, does. The acting, staging, direction of “Valhalla” have put this script on my “must read” list. Congratulations, Peter, for a grand kickoff for Essential Theatre’s 2008 Festival!
I’ve just come home from opening night of “Valhalla,” the first play in the Essential Theatre Power Plays Festival. Script, direction, cast and crew — all were great. I loved every moment and encourage all to catch it! For a sneak peak of the production, as wells as show dates and times, go to https://www.essentialtheatre.com/
A few years ago, I directed the Essential Theatre’s production of Paul Rudnick’s THE MOST FABULOUS STORY EVER TOLD, which took a look at stories and themes from the Bible, seen through a gay perspective (starting in the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Steve). It’s still one of my favorites shows that we’ve ever done, and not just because it was funny as hell (line for line, I think Rudnick may be the funniest playwright working today). What I found most captivating about the script was the scope of its theatrical imagination and the depth and breadth of its exploration of spiritual issues. Expecting to read a campy joke-fest, I found that I had discovered a playwright capable of creating the kind of magic only live theatre can provide.